By Andrew Tipp

It’s a feeling experienced by most backpackers: you’re coming towards the end of your trip, and suddenly you start thinking about home. About your family. About your friends.

About money.

You realise that when you get home you’ll have a problem with money, in that you won’t have any. None.

In fact, you’ll have less than nothing. You’ll be deep in your overdraft and you have the vague memory of your parents saying you could stay with them but no way were they going to support you.

This is one of the low moments for backpackers. It’s like that feeling when you suddenly realize you’ve done something wrong. You haven’t, of course, but it feels that way.

So what will you do? What can you do? After all, you’ve spent the last six-to-twelve months essentially making yourself unemployable, haven’t you? I mean, who’s going to want to employ a hairy backpacker with a huge gap on their CV? Or a volunteer that’s spent the last four month mucking out monkey cages?

But stop. You shouldn’t be panicking. Because travelling actually makes you more employable, not less. Research by YouGov shows that employers are clearly more likely to employ young people that have taken a constructive year out.

How? Why? Let’s look at some of the reasons that travel makes you more employable.

1. Real life experiences

People that don’t travel don’t leave their comfort zone. They stay where they are, in every sense of the words.

Travel gets you out there in the world and puts you through experiences. If you properly commit to being an independent budget traveller, you’re going to experience a lot.

This is going to be a mixture of the good and the bad. You’ll meet friendly, romantically people, visit exotic temples, befriend wild creatures and get a taste for the goodness of humanity.

But you might also occasionally feel threatened, go hungry, endure extreme conditions, be challenged by difficulties and obstacles and face up to people living in genuine, desperate poverty.

All these experiences – the good and the bad – shape you. They change you. The bad things probably more so than the good. This makes you stand out. Real life experiences can help make you grow and mature and build character.

All this adds up to making you a stronger and more employable personality.

2. Confidence and self-reliance

Are you an introvert or extrovert? If you’ve travelled or volunteered abroad it doesn’t matter. The experience of travelling will build your confidence.

In fact, travel will do more for your confidence if you’re an introvert. When you travel you need to be almost completely self-reliant. You need to buy bus tickets in foreign languages, get your clothes washed in weird places, decipher and cook alien foods, socialise with strangers.

All these things might be stuff you don’t do too much at home, but the act of doing them on a gap year travelling or volunteering will give you self-confidence and reliance. These are traits that are attractive to any employer.

If you’re volunteering you’ll probably build even more confidence – you might find yourself caring for children or leading a class packed with noisy students. Check out volunteering abroad site Original Volunteers for some placement ideas.

3. Problem-solving and initiative

How often do you have to solve problems at home in day-to-day life?

I don’t mean working out whether to watch Mad Men or Game of Thrones, or trying to decide between ordering a takeaway Chinese or pizza. I mean real problems, like trying to find any food in a foreign land when you’re hungry, or finding your way to safety when you’re lost in the middle or a new city at night or trekking in a jungle.

Travelling can put you in some sticky situations. We usually forget about them when we get back home, but when you think about it you can’t believe that you secretly were in a bit of a dangerous spot.

These situations force you to think, plan and make decisions. They force you to problem-solve and take the initiative. These are pretty desirable skills in the workplace, whatever the job.

4. Discipline and budgeting


People that don’t travel often picture backpackers as a lazy, super relaxed layabouts that don’t plan more than one step ahead and are careless with their bulging bank accounts stuffed with cash from their parents.

While this kind of stereotype might apply to some travellers, most of us plan to a tight budget and are incredibly disciplined about where we can go and what we do. Backpacking for a week isn’t expensive, but backpacking for 30 or 40 weeks can be, which means that lots of travellers actually have great budgeting and money-management skills.

Being able to effectively manage your time and resources is essential to lots of job across the workplace payscale, so who wouldn’t want to work with someone that’s managed a trip across the world on a shoestring?

To learn more about travelling on a budget, be sure to read this guide on

5. An open mind

Whether you’re working and living in one place on a volunteering project or passing through several countries, you’ll be experiencing new culture and traditions. New lifestyle and ideas.

It’s a cliche, but travel really does broaden the mind. You relax your narrow frame-of-reference and consider how other people live. You can do this anywhere, obviously, but travelling forces you to confront it. To live it. To immerse yourself in it. You can’t get that from Wiki Travel.

You don’t need to work for some multinational business to bring value in the form of worldly experience. Just bringing a new perspective is worthwhile, and the ability to step back and consider that there might be different ways around an idea can be really attractive trait.

So there you have it. Five ways a constructive gap year travelling or volunteering can make a difference in getting a job. Do you agree or disagree? Are there any other valuable skills you pick up when travelling?

About the author

Andrew Tipp is a writer, blogger and editor. He’s spent more than a year backpacking and volunteering abroad, and used to work as a site editor for travel advice and community website